The most exciting cross-country meets Kevin Barry has seen in his 35 years of coaching took place within a few minutes of each other at East Hampton High School on Oct. 18. First, East Hampton and Westhampton Beach's girls went at it, and soon after they'd finished, the Bonac and Hurricane boys did the same.
East Hampton's girls won 27-28, and East Hampton's boys lost 27-29. Barry's boys were to have had two more chances to avenge themselves, in the Division III meet at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park Tuesday and in the Suffolk County Class B race there on Friday, Nov. 4.
"Everyone, on all four teams, gave it everything they had," Barry said afterward. "It was thrilling to see."
It was the first league championship that an East Hampton girls cross-country team had ever won, the first such, Diane O'Donnell said, in her 31 years of coaching here. (The team was a county champion in 2019.) She had thought her teams would win league titles "at least half a dozen times" in that span only to be proved wrong, results that taught her that things don't always go according to form. (Barry said a good example of that lay in the fact that O'Donnell's team was 3-3 going into the 2019 county meet.)
"I knew it would be close," O'Donnell said. "I had projected that if everyone ran the way they were supposed to run we'd win by 1 point, but, in the end, I was surprised by our placements." Dylan Cashin, East Hampton's top runner, who was first over the line, "was no surprise, but some of the others were."
On the subject of predicted finishes, Barry said, "Our order changes every week," and added that while he hadn't projected a score, "we knew that if we won, it would be by 1 point or because of a [sixth man] tiebreaker."
Cashin covered the 2.5-mile course -- two loops around the school's perimeter -- in 15 minutes and 28 seconds, a personal record for her. "She was in complete control throughout," said O'Donnell. "I knew she'd win unless she fell down and broke a leg." Westhampton runners came in second and third, with Ryleigh O'Donnell -- Cashin's co-captain -- fourth, Zion Osei fifth, Emma Tepan eighth, and Briana Chavez ninth. Aside from O'Donnell, who missed by 5 seconds, everyone "P.R.'d" -- Osei by 20 seconds, Tepan by 25, and Chavez by 24.
"At the halfway point our girls were losing by 5 points," said Barry. But Osei, Tepan, and Chavez came on in the second half.
Needless to say, the girls -- it was the League V championship they'd won -- were over the moon. The top five comprise two juniors, Cashin and O'Donnell, and three sophomores, Osei, Tepan, and Chavez. Those three, O'Donnell said, had made the difference. Both teams were 3-0 going in.
At Tuesday's division meet, East Hampton's girls were to have run not only against the teams in their league -- Westhampton, Islip, Rocky Point, and Half Hollow Hills West -- but also against the teams in League VI -- Sayville, Shoreham-Wading River, Kings Park, Miller Place, Hampton Bays, Harborfields, and Amityville.
"It will be interesting, to say the least," O'Donnell said.
Back to the boys, Barry knew Westhampton would take the top two spots. There was no question about that. Max Haynia, the second-ranked cross-country runner in the state, won, and set a course record in doing so, in 12:33, eclipsing Kal Lewis's 12:40.
Westhampton and East Hampton boys cross-country teams had won six of the last seven county championships, said Barry. "We won in 2015 and '17, and they won in '18, '19, '20, and '21." As for league championships, "we won the league championship last year and the year before that."
Westhampton had the runner-up in the boys race too. East Hampton's Brayan Rivera was third, in 13:55, Westhampton's Adrian Caumartin -- "their hero" -- took fourth, and then came four Bonackers, Diego Rojas, Liam Knight, Liam Fowkes, and Mikey Gilbert, in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. Everyone P.R.'d that day, said Barry, whose assistant, Nick DeLuca, in a pre-meet pep talk had told their charges that "the cow doesn't give the milk, you've got to milk the cow." In other words, he said, they would have to work hard for everything they got in this life.
"They milked the cow," DeLuca was to say afterward.